Design Icon: Renzo Piano

written by:
April 1, 2014
We highlight Italian architect Renzo Piano, winner of the Pritzker Prize and one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.
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  Pritzker Prize–winner Renzo Piano is the most ubiquitous Italian architect on the global stage. He has lovely manners, and his international workshop consistently churns out polished, thoughtful, calm, and high-tech public spaces. Piano’s unrivaled string of blockbusters over the last few decades includes Kansai International Airport in Osaka, San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences, and the Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, underway in London. We explore a few of his architectural achievements.  

    Pritzker Prize–winner Renzo Piano is the most ubiquitous Italian architect on the global stage. He has lovely manners, and his international workshop consistently churns out polished, thoughtful, calm, and high-tech public spaces. Piano’s unrivaled string of blockbusters over the last few decades includes Kansai International Airport in Osaka, San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences, and the Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, underway in London. We explore a few of his architectural achievements. 

     

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  Here, Renzo Piano stands in front of his addition to the historic Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, originally built in 1903. Dwell Special Projects Editor Kelsey Keith interviewed him two weeks before the official opening in 2012. “What is great about architecture is that for every project you start a new adventure,” Piano said. “If you want to stay away from a terrible thing called 'style,' which means you are trapped in a golden cage in which you'll never survive, then you have to be free enough to have a new inspiration for a place. The inspiration here is the palace, not the whole building, but the fragility, the lightness, and transparency of the courtyard. It's a masterpiece, introverted.”Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

    Here, Renzo Piano stands in front of his addition to the historic Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, originally built in 1903. Dwell Special Projects Editor Kelsey Keith interviewed him two weeks before the official opening in 2012. “What is great about architecture is that for every project you start a new adventure,” Piano said. “If you want to stay away from a terrible thing called 'style,' which means you are trapped in a golden cage in which you'll never survive, then you have to be free enough to have a new inspiration for a place. The inspiration here is the palace, not the whole building, but the fragility, the lightness, and transparency of the courtyard. It's a masterpiece, introverted.”

    Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

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  In The Living Room, a meeting place in the hotel, Piano chose a vibrant red because simply because he loves the color. “The material choices were made in mind of the levitation of the volume and to welcome the public with informal activities,” he said.  Courtesy of: Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

    In The Living Room, a meeting place in the hotel, Piano chose a vibrant red because simply because he loves the color. “The material choices were made in mind of the levitation of the volume and to welcome the public with informal activities,” he said.

    Courtesy of: Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

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  Le Meridien Lingotto, another one of Piano’s buildings, was once a Fiat car factory, and is now a hotel and an example of a popular blend of architecture in Europe which mixes the old with the new. Photo by: ilsole24ore

    Le Meridien Lingotto, another one of Piano’s buildings, was once a Fiat car factory, and is now a hotel and an example of a popular blend of architecture in Europe which mixes the old with the new. Photo by: ilsole24ore

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  Nestled into the Tuscan landscape, in the municipality of Gavorrano in the heart of Maremma, sits a modern winery called Rocca di Frassinello. Designed by Piano, the brilliant red structure can be seen for miles, and overlooks the Medieval hamlet of Giuncarico. Piano, who grew up a family vineyard in the Ovada hills, was tempted to accept the project after revisiting the area by helicopter. His conception, a modern interpretation of a traditional Tuscan wine-making operation, opened in 2007 and is largely underground, featuring a cavernous amphitheater that holds 2,500 oak barrels holding a "super-Tuscan" blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Chianti.  Photo by: Amanda Dameron

    Nestled into the Tuscan landscape, in the municipality of Gavorrano in the heart of Maremma, sits a modern winery called Rocca di Frassinello. Designed by Piano, the brilliant red structure can be seen for miles, and overlooks the Medieval hamlet of Giuncarico. Piano, who grew up a family vineyard in the Ovada hills, was tempted to accept the project after revisiting the area by helicopter. His conception, a modern interpretation of a traditional Tuscan wine-making operation, opened in 2007 and is largely underground, featuring a cavernous amphitheater that holds 2,500 oak barrels holding a "super-Tuscan" blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Chianti.

    Photo by: Amanda Dameron

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  A collection of 2,500 barrels are inside the "Barriquerie", each holding wine that will age for up to 20 months. Piano calls this space the winery's "secret soul." "The magic [of the space] comes from these 2,500 barrels that watch you like huge eyes," Piano said. At center in the ceiling is the skylight that directs a central beam to the middle of the floor. In the background are windows to the surrounding chamber that holds the steel vats that process the grapes. Photo by Amanda Dameron.  Photo by: Amanda Dameron

    A collection of 2,500 barrels are inside the "Barriquerie", each holding wine that will age for up to 20 months. Piano calls this space the winery's "secret soul." "The magic [of the space] comes from these 2,500 barrels that watch you like huge eyes," Piano said. At center in the ceiling is the skylight that directs a central beam to the middle of the floor. In the background are windows to the surrounding chamber that holds the steel vats that process the grapes. Photo by Amanda Dameron.

    Photo by: Amanda Dameron

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